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Nordic Adventure, Part 6: Copenhagen

The fourth city in my five-city romp through the Nordics was the capital of Denmark:  Copenhagen!

Copenhagen is full of fascinating things to see and do.   For example, directly opposite the main train station is Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world.  Opened in 1843, Tivoli is the second most popular seasonal theme park in the world, the most visited theme park in Scandinavia and the fourth most visited in Europe.

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Most of the rides are considerably more recent than the park’s opening in the 1800s.  For example, the red track here is The Demon, which only dates back ten years to 2004.  Some roller coaster enthusiasts posted a video of their ride if you’re curious.

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In the center of the city is the Rundetårn, or Round Tower, completed in 1642.

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The tower was built as an astronomical observatory at the top and a library partway up.  The path to the top is a helix, a sloped walk.  This was chosen over stairs because so that a horse and carriage could go to the top.  This allowed them to move books and sensitive scientific equipment up the tower easily.

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The center of the tower is completely hollow, and you can see all the way to the bottom.   A daring tourist can step right onto this thick observation glass.

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This is the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. It was founded in 1897 by Carl Jacobsen, the man who founded the Carlsberg beer brewery.  It’s an art museum which originally contained Jacobsen’s private collection.

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The museum was originally a sculpture museum, and sculpture remains the primary focus of the atrium and grounds.  This is Kai Nielsen’s sculpture, “Water Mother,” front and center in the Winter Garden.

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In front of the main stairway is a rather nifty statue of Neptune.

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…and this attractive fellow is in the gardens out back.

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Let’s get this out of the way right now- You’re going to see Segway riders in a bunch of these pictures, because I took another Segway tour when I was in Copenhagen.   The city of Copenhagen contains hundreds of miles worth of bicycle lanes, 14 miles of which are on the streets in the city.  Segways are allowed to use bicycle lanes in the city, so it’s an amazingly great way to cover a lot of ground.  Plus they’re really fun.

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I can’t really remember why I took a picture of this wall, but it sure is a happy wall, wouldn’t you say?

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This square is called Gammeltorv.  That round thing is a fountain but I guess it was still covered from the winter.  I had a very enjoyable traditional Danish meal at a restaurant in this plaza.

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Copenhagen was nine days into my travels, and I needed to do some laundry.  I found a marvelous place called The Laundromat Cafe, which has locations in Denmark and Reykjavik Iceland.  The Laundromat Cafe is exactly what it sounds like-  a nice place to get a snack or a beer while you’re laundry is running in the handy coin-operated wash machines.  I did a load of laundry, and had a delicious pastry.  The girl behind the counter said this was a traditional Danish pastry, but I never caught the name of it.  I can say that it looks and tastes like a strawberry  Pop-Tart, only more delicious.

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Non-sequitur time!  The Metro in Copenhagen has large clear windows on the front and back of each car, and if you take video from inside, it looks a little bit like the opening credits to Doctor Who.  Behold!

Amagertorv is a popular meeting place in Copenhagen because the Stork Fountain is a pretty well known and easy to find landmark.

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This building used to be Nikolaj Church, but now Nikolaj Kunsthal is a contemporary art center.  They do their best to keep the confusion down, by way of this handy hanging banner on the front of the building.

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Frederik’s Church is often referred to as the Marble Church.  It’s due west of Amalienborg Palace.  This is the largest church dome in Scandinavia, and it was probably modeled after the Basilica in Vatican City.

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This is the courtyard at Amalienborg Palace.  Amalienborg consists of four identical palace buildings in an octagonal courtyard.

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You can tell it’s a Palace because there are guards with fuzzy hats.  It’s a royal thing.

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Den lille havfrue, or The Little Mermaid, is a fairly famous bronze sculpture by Edvard Eriksen which sits on a rock by the waterside.  The head of the statue is modeled after ballerina Ellen Price, but Price didn’t agree to model in the nude, so the body is modeled after the sculptor’s wife, Eline.  The statue is a frequent target for vandalism, and tourists climb onto the rock with her quite often for photographs.  In fact, the solitude displayed in this picture is very much an illusion, as you’ll see in the next photo.

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Later in the day, I took a boat tour which passed the Little Mermaid from the water.  This view gives you a much more accurate idea of what it’s like by the Mermaid’s rock.

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The Gefion Fountain, near the Little Mermaid, is the biggest monument in Copenhagen.  It was created for Carlsberg Brewery’s 50th birthday.  The legend of Gefion was told to me three different times while I was in Copenhagen, and it goes roughly as follows:

The Swedish king Gylfe offered Gefion as much of Sweden as she could plough in one day and one night.To get the most out of it, Gefion turned her four sons into big strong oxen and harnessed them to a plough.   And then they ploughed. And they ploughed. All day and all night. So deep in the ground, that when the time expired, Gefion could lift up the land and drop it into the sea between Sweden and Funen Island in Denmark.  And that’s how the beautiful and historic Zealand Island – the biggest island in Denmark – came to be.

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Near the Little Mermaid is an old well preserved star-shaped fortress called Kastellet.  This is one tiny corner of it.

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Apparently, this bridge is the source of considerable embarassment for the Danes-   the construction was begun from both sides, and when they got near the middle, they realized that the two sides did not actually line up.  The construction company has since gone out of business and they’re left with an incomplete non-connecting bridge.

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The spire on the left here, with the four entwined dragons, is actually the Stock Exchange. This is very misleading, Copenhagen!

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This is the Royal Library in Copenhagen.  The structure in the front is referred to as the Black Diamond, and the part in the back is the original Library building.

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The Royal Library Garden exists behind the structures in the previous photo-  it’s a really quiet and pleasant place in the middle of the city.

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This is Christiansborg Palace, the seat of Danish Parliament.

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Anchored in the harbor is the Royal Yacht Dannebrog.  Dannebrog serves as the official and private residence for the Royal Couple and other members of the Royal Family when they are on official visits overseas or on summer cruises in home waters.

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When the royals are waiting to be picked up by the boat, or when they’re waiting for state visitors, they wait in Toldboden.  They use the gazebo-like building on the left, with the crown on its roof.  Non-royals are allowed to wait in the other structure.

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My visit was just after the Eurovision Song Contest was hosted in Copenhagen.  It was so recent to my visit that they hadn’t even taken down the banner on the giant music hall yet.

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I don’t have much to say about the Opera House.

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Frederik’s Church again, this time from the water.

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The neat looking spiral spire is Christianshavn, the Church of Our Savior.  The circular stairs to climb the tower are on the outside of the building.  I didn’t climb this one, regrettably, but it looks really neat!

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Copenhagen’s City Hall Square.

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Alongside of the Copenhagen City Hall is a statue of Hans Christian Andersen, author of faery-tales such as The Little Mermaid and Frozen…er, I mean The Snow Queen.

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Have you ever been to Copenhagen?

Special Friday Bonus Post: Eurovision 2014

It’s Eurovision time again!!!

The first Eurovision was held in Lugano, Switzerland in May of 1956 and it included just seven countries- Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Switzerland.  This year is the 59th year of the Eurovision contest, and 37 nations are competing.  Last night was the last semi-final, and the final competition is on Saturday, the 10th of May.

My first exposure to Eurovision was in the 2012 Eurovision song competition., the year of the Singing Grannies and Jedward.   The spectacle is quite amazing, and I was hooked. In 2013, I missed all the singing parts and only managed to catch the very last section where they do all the vote counting.  That bit was dull as toast points.

This year, the competition has been mildly interesting.  A lot of very similar sounding solo vocalists, with a handful of standout acts.  Here’s some of my favorites from the competition so far, and I haven’t even seen the five that were pre-qualified for Saturday’s final.

Sweden – Sanna Nielsen – Undo – Good song, polished singer, and catchy enough to get lots of radio play.

Russia – Tolmachevy Sisters – Shine – There were a lot of audience boos for these two, not because they were bad – they weren’t.  They were quite good, but the Russia-Crimea-Ukraine politics bled into the mood of the audience.

Ukraine – Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick – Tock – The running man was a neat visual.

Belgium – Axel Hirsoux – Mother – This guy has a decent voice, but he’s not “pop” enough to win this competition. (He didn’t make it to the finals.)

The Netherlands – The Common Linnets – Calm After The Storm - I like the sound of this band, actually.  This song has a little bit of “Every Breath You Take” in it, I think.

Belarus – Teo – Cheesecake – A Belarusian boy band!

Ireland – Can-Linn (featuring Kasey Smith) – Hearbeat - I liked this, but I’m predisposed to enjoy anything with a good fiddle in the background. They didn’t make it to the finals, though.

Poland – Donatan & Cleo – We Are Slavic (My Slowianie) - Poland’s answer to the Spice Girls?

Austria – Conchita Wurst  – Rise Like A Phoenix – Austrian drag queen with a killer voice.

Iceland – Pollapönk – No Prejudice – These dudes are totally my favorites to win, even if they do dress like the Wiggles.  Plus I dig their dance moves at 1:42.

Will you watch the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 finals tomorrow night?

Competitive Europeans, Part 1

American Idol and similar vocal performance shows are all the rage back in the US, but I didn’t know until last month that they all have roots you can trace back to Europe. I first started to hear mentions of Eurovision during trivia quiz night at the pub, but I had no idea just how big it was until the competition aired last month.  That’s when all the blog posts started-  I follow a lot of blogs from other folks who live in Germany, and after the finals were aired, there were lots of wrap up posts.

I wasn’t going to write about this, because so many other people have, but then I started to read up on the history of the contest, and I started to listen to the music.

It started in 1956. After Europe started to rebuild itself following World War 2, the European Broadcasting Union based in Switzerland tried to come up with ways of bringing together their member nations. They came up with Eurovision, an experiment in live broadcasting of a music contest that was based on an existing music festival from Italy. I say experiment because a multinational live television broadcast in 1956 was kind of a big deal.

The first Eurovision was held in Lugano, Switzerland in May of 1956 and it included just seven countries- Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Switzerland. 2012 was the 57th year of the Eurovision contest, and 42 nations competed.

The format is simple- each competing nation presents a live song, often with elaborate choreography, and the winner is decided by vote. The winning country typically hosts the following year’s competition.

Sometimes, the competition launches careers. ABBA won the contest for Sweden in 1974 with “Waterloo.” Celine Dion won the contest for Switzerland in 1988, so blame them for her continued presence.

Speaking of Celine Dion, the winner this year sounded a bit like her. Loreen, representing Sweden, performed “Euphoria.” With her jumpy choreography, it’s kind of like watching Celine Dion having seizures.

Buncha video embeds behind this ‘more’ tag.